By Diane Madigan
Independent Court Reporter
On April 9, a preliminary exam will definitely be held or the exam will be waived to circuit court for disbarred-attorney/accused-embezzler Thomas A. White of Van Buren Township.
At White’s eighth trip to 34th District Court concerning the five felony charges filed against him on Sept. 6 and the 15 additional felonies filed on Dec. 18, 34th District Court Chief Judge Tina Brooks Green was definite.
No more delays – and the Prosecutor’s Office is not paying to copy many pages of evidence because White’s attorney says White can’t afford it.
“This has gone on long enough,” said Judge Green during the March 19 date set for the latest preliminary exam. “It needs to proceed.”
She said White and his attorney Michael Vincent came into court on March 18, the day before the latest exam date, seeking a postponement. But Judge Green said she wanted everyone present who was planning to attend the March 19 session, so she denied that request.
Then, on March 19 she addressed attorney Vincent’s motion that would waive fees for White and have the county pay some $2,000 worth of copying charges for the evidence against White on the 15 felony charges.
Vincent has yet to review the evidence against his client in the charges filed Dec. 18 because of the problem of paying for the copying charges, which he didn’t mention to the court until February.
Judge Green said there was a bond on file and her comment was to use the bond for the copying, but then she found the $1,800 bond had already been released. (That was $2,000 minus court charges.) White’s bond had been converted to $100,000 personal recognizance bond, with no cash necessary unless he doesn’t come to court as required.
She said she couldn’t see why she should waive a couple of thousand dollars for White, given the charges against him.
Vincent said if there is going to be restitution, the money should go to the alleged victims not to the prosecutor’s office. He wants to see what’s there and what’s not, as far as the evidence.
Vincent complained they are putting everybody “in hell and high water.”
Assistant Wayne County Prosecutor Daniel Williams said there is $2,000 worth of discovery and it would be a hard hit for the Prosecutor’s Office to take that cost.
He said that Vincent is a retained attorney rather than appointed. If White had a court-appointed attorney, they would not charge for copying the evidence, he said.
Judge Green said there are legal bills being generated and paid by White and, while she has documents about White’s bankruptcy, “There is no proof of indigency.”
“Whatever my fees are is incidental,” Vincent stated, adding he wasn’t going to go there. He said White has no job and no income.
“I’m not Mr. Ficano. I don’t control their budget,” Vincent said of the Prosecutor’s Office funding problems.
Judge Green said when a defendant is causing the prosecutor to pay these fees, “I have a really hard time waiving fees in this. I’m going to deny your request.” Then she stated April 9 is the preliminary exams date.
Assistant Prosecutor Williams then stated that there are two cases here, the five felonies charged in September and the 15 more charged in December. He said he and Michigan State Police Trooper Marc Moore, who was present, agree on a motion to consolidate these two cases on April 9.
“I feel like I’m objecting to everything,” Vincent said. “I’ve tried to work with the system. What I’ve done is run into a road block. I need to go over the documents.”
Williams said he would set up an appointment for Vincent to come to the Prosecutor’s Office to go over the evidence.
Judge Green said she felt Vincent was being disingenuous by saying he would be handicapped in the case.
Judge Green asked, “Now that I’ve denied a waiver for the fees, you’re going to say you’re not ready?”
“I will be ready,” Vincent said.
Judge Green said she would not consolidate the cases for the purposes of a probable cause hearing, but the cases could be consolidated at circuit court.
She said she can block off time for a lengthy preliminary exam from April 9-16. She said they can do the first case and the second exam.
“He can come and look at the evidence for as long as he wants,” Williams said of Vincent, adding he is not going to be in trial for the next two weeks.
Judge Green said if Williams isn’t available he should make sure someone else in his office is available for Vincent’s visit.
“I’ll see you on the 9th,” Judge Green concluded to everyone involved.
White is accused of 16 counts of embezzlement totaling a minimum of $1.94 million. He filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy on July 19.
Heather Lea White was granted a divorce, without a trial, from Thomas A. White on March 21 in the Wayne County Circuit Court courtroom of Judge Arthur J. Lombard.
She filed for divorce on Nov. 1 and the case was dismissed on Feb. 6 after she did not show up for a court hearing. Then a motion to reinstate the proceedings was made Feb. 10.
On March 21 White’s U.S. Bankruptcy Court Trustee Wendy Turner Lewis filed a motion for an order approving a compromise between the court and the Gallaway family’s attorney Steven Cohen in the matter of a transfer of $13,990.71 from White’s credit union account on May 16, 2013.
White filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy on July 19, 2013.
The complaint states that White was insolvent at the time the transfer was made, within 90 days of White filing for bankruptcy, and the account had been frozen.
Cohen denied that the transfer was avoidable stating the funds were his client’s funds that White was required to hold in trust for his clients.
Following negotiations, the Gallaway family agreed to resolve the proceeding for $9,000 which the court approved.
According to Cohen, members of the Gallaway family are beneficiaries to the Thomas Garrett estate and should have received $600,000 from White, who handled the estate, but they got nothing.
Representing the family, Cohen filed a civil lawsuit against White in December 2012. The court awarded the Gallaway family $350,000, which White never paid.
Also, March 20 was the deadline for debtors to file objections for White’s bankruptcy.
And, Ford Motor Co. was granted relief from the automatic freezing of assets imposed by the bankruptcy for a 2012 Ford Escape leased by White. This allows Ford to repossess and sell the vehicle.
Editor Rosemary K. Otzman also contributed to this report.
By Diane Madigan